Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter Two Hundred and Thirty-Three : Problem


Wednesday evening — 5:45 p.m.

“And don’t be late,” the coach pointed to Charlie. “I don’t give a crap if you’re peeing in a jar or standing on your head. You’re here on time or you don’t play.”

“Yes Coach,” Charlie said.

“Now get out of here,” the coach said.

Charlie hung his head and slunk out of the gym. The rest of the team had already left practice. He’d had to do extra exercises and drills because he was late. Or that’s what the coach had said. Charlie glanced back at the man and caught a worried look on the coach’s face. He wondered if the guy knew what he was doing. He was about to turn around to ask when the coach grabbed the net full of the balls and left for the locker room.

Charlie didn’t want to go to the locker room.

He continued down the hallway to the outside door. Caught up in his own world, he pushed the door open and walked down the steps. He’d already crossed the Esplanade when the other online school guy cut Charlie off with his bike.

“I don’ want no trouble,” Charlie didn’t bother to look up. He stepped around the bike and kept walking.

“Hey,” the other online school guy said.

Charlie looked up at him.

“I want to talk to you.” The kid was following Charlie.

“Grab a number.”

Charlie’s voice reminded him of Eeyore. When he was first getting sober, Pete used to repeat everything he said in Eeyore’s voice. Charlie smirked and stopped walking.

“What?” Charlie turned around abruptly and startled the guy.

“I … um …” the kid looked a little scared and flustered.

Charlie scowled and turned around again.

“My sister killed herself,” the kid said.

Charlie turned around to look at him.

“I saw you …” the kid said.

Charlie took two steps toward the boy. All of his frustration, shame, and rage came forward. He was ready to kill the kid.

“ … at the police station,” the boy swallowed hard. “My parents and I. The police … um … they came to our house and said we had to come see a guy and it was you.”

Charlie sneered at the kid.

“I told them … I did … that you were okay,” the kid said. “A little high strung, but okay.”

“Why were you there?” Charlie asked.

“My sister killed herself,” the kid said.

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“She was … you know … and she …” The boy swallowed hard. If Charlie wasn’t so mad, he would have felt sorry for him. “Well, you know. She never got over it.”

“Oh,” Charlie said. “Sorry.”

“She would have died,” the boy said. “You know, that night. But you found her. That’s what she said, ‘A kid named Pan and his friends found me, gave me a blanket, and … He stayed with me, held my hand, until somebody took me to the hospital.’”

Charlie looked away from the boy.

“Was that you?” the boy asked.

Charlie gave him a curt nod.

“Will you … I mean … Can you tell me what you know?” the kid asked.

Charlie’s eyes scanned the boy’s face and body. The boy was caught in the kind of desperate grief that Charlie knew all too well.

“We don’t know anything,” the boy’s voice came out in an insistent whisper. “Nothing.”

Charlie watched him struggle with his own memory.

“You’re all she remembered,” he said. “I mean except for some of what happened. She would have died wherever that was, but … That’s what the doctor said. She had brain damage and was scarred on her face.”

The boy put his hand to his face.

“And … you know, other places.” The boy put his hand on his belly and legs.

“My mom was sure she’d get better, but my dad … and I …”

The boy looked up at Charlie.

“I just miss her,” the boy said.

Not sure what to say, Charlie looked over the kid’s head at the school.

“I found her,” the boy whispered.

Charlie’s eyes jerked to the boy’s face.

“Hanging,” the boy nodded. “I knew she was going to do it. I did. But …”

The boy shrugged.

“I just miss her,” the boy repeated.

“Charlie?” Mike’s voice came from behind him.

The boy jerked with surprise. He grabbed his bike to ride off and then saw Buster. The shock of seeing such an ugly dog made the boy stop.

“That’s one ugly dog!” the boy laughed.

Buster nudged the boy’s leg and then nudged him so hard he fell over, bike and all. The boy giggled while Buster wiggled and wagged and licked the boy’s face. Sarah, Jake’s yellow Labrador, wagged over the boy. As if to say, “What can you do with these kids?” Scooter sat down next to Charlie.

“Okay, okay,” Mike said.

Mike pulled Buster back from the boy. Charlie got his bike. As soon as the boy sat up, Buster went back to licking his face. Charlie whistled and Buster sat down. The dog had a huge grin on his face. Sarah looked over the boy to make sure he was all right. Just in case the boy might pet her, Sarah sat right under his hand.

“Are these your dogs?” the boy grinned.

“This one,” Charlie nodded to Buster.

“I know you,” the boy said to Mike. “You’re Valerie Lipson’s husband. The artist. My sister loves her. Says she’s so pretty and …”

The boy swallowed hard. He grabbed his bike to ride off.

“Who’s your friend, Charlie?” Mike slapped the back of Charlie’s head.

“I don’t know,” Charlie said. “What’s your name?”

“Tim,” the boy blushed. “Tim Logan.”

“Nice to meet you, Tim,” Mike said. “I’m Mike Roper. This is Buster. That’s Sarah and this really good dog is Scooter.”

Scooter looked up at the boy.

“We were just heading back for dinner,” Mike said. “Would you like to join us?”

“Sure!” The boy beamed.

“Do you want to bring your sister?” Mike asked. “It’s not anything fancy but I know Val would like to meet any friend of Charlie’s.”

“My sister’s … um,” Tim’s face fell. “She …”

“She’s one of the girls,” Charlie said. “She’s not here anymore.”

“Oh,” Mike said. “I’m really sorry, Tim.”

“I wanted Charlie to show me where it happened, you know?” Tim looked at Mike. “But he …”

“Charlie?” Mike scowled at Charlie.

Charlie shrugged.

“She had this necklace,” Tim said. “She wore it every day and … I keep dreaming about it. Like it’s there waiting for me to find it.”

Charlie looked at Mike.

“I play here because she thought the guys came from East because she was at a dance at East before … And … they were tall so I thought they might play basketball and … I’m going to find them,” Tim nodded.

Mike gave Charlie a wilting look.

“Charlie would be happy to help you and your family,” Mike said. “Do you want to call your parents?”

Tim shook his head.

“About dinner,” Mike said.

“Oh,” Tim said. “Sure.”

“Why don’t you invite them too?” Mike asked. “There’s always plenty.”

“I think they would like that,” Tim said. “And then could we go …?”

Mike put his arm over Charlie’s shoulder. Charlie looked at him.

“We’d love to,” Mike said. “In fact, we’ll all go. Right Charlie?”

“Sure,” Charlie said. “Everybody gets involved in everything at our house.”

“When’s dinner?” Tim smiled. Charlie realized it was the first time he’d seen the kid smile.

“We’re eating at seven,” Mike said. “We have to wait for Sissy to get home.”

“Sissy Delgado lives with you,” Tim blushed.

“She’s my sister,” Charlie said.

“She’s just … beautiful,” Tim swallowed hard.

“She’s my sister,” Charlie’s voice was a little sinister and Tim jumped.

“One thing at a time,” Mike said. “Why don’t you go home and talk to your parents? Let us know about dinner. If tonight doesn’t work, then another night will.”

“But we can go tonight right?” Tim asked. “To the place where … you know? Right?”

“Sure,” Charlie said.

“It’s all set,” Mike said. “We have to go. Charlie’s on an ankle monitor. If he’s not home in ten minutes, the cops come.”

“Okay,” the boy said. “See you later.”

The boy smiled and rode off on his bike. Mike gave Buster’s leash to Charlie.

“That was very nice of you, Charlie,” Mike said and set off with Sarah and Scooter.

Charlie scowled after him.

“Are you coming?” Mike asked. “We’ve got to hurry.”

Charlie ran to catch up with Mike.


Wednesday evening — 5:45 p.m.

Sandy opened the side door to the Castle and stepped into the main living room. She smiled at Delphie who was leaning against the back of the couch.

“Can I talk to you for a minute?” Delphie asked.

“Sure,” Sandy said. “I need to get the kids ready for dinner. Is Aden home?”

“Aden, Jake, and Sam are meeting with the site managers,” Delphie said.

“I thought that was happening this morning,” Sandy hung up her coat.

“They couldn’t work it out.”

Delphie gave an impatient nod. Sandy grinned at her impatience.

“What’s up?” Sandy asked.

“It’s about Ivy,” Delphie said and then clammed up.

Sandy smiled, but Delphie didn’t say anything else.

“What about Ivy?” Sandy looked up to see Honey wheeling across the living room with Maggie in her lap. Honey pointed to the kitchen and Sandy nodded.

“Ivy?” Delphie asked.

“Are you feeling all right?” Sandy asked.

“Me?” Delphie asked. “Fine. Why?”

Sandy smiled. When she first moved here, she’d found this conversation style of Delphie’s to be very disturbing. She’d finally asked Sam about it. He told her that until Delphie met Celia, she’d never had a conversation about herself. It was very difficult for her to talk about what was going on with her. She simply needed prodding to even remember what she wanted to talk about.

“Would you like to talk about taking care of Ivy?” Sandy suggested.

“Yes,” Delphie pointed at Sandy. “That’s it. Who’s going to take care of Ivy?”

“What do you mean?” Sandy asked.

Delphie shook her head and started to walk toward the kitchen.

“Do you want to take care of Ivy?” Sandy asked.

“Yes,” Delphie turned back to Sandy. “But I can’t.”

“How come?” Sandy asked.

Delphie shook her head.

“You don’t want to?” Sandy asked.

Delphie shook her head.

“You don’t know how?” Sandy asked.

Delphie nodded.

“Hmm,” Sandy said. “I see your dilemma. I’m glad you decided to talk to me about this.”

Delphie smiled.

“I bet you feel like you should take Ivy in because she’s your family,” Sandy said.

“You took in Charlie and Sissy,” Delphie nodded.

“You took in Nash and Noelle,” Sandy said.

“That’s different,” Delphie’s voice rose with frustration. “That’s not the same thing. You don’t understand at all.”

“No, no,” Sandy said. “I get it. That’s different because Nash and Noelle had daycare and a father.”

Delphie nodded.

“But you took care of Nash and Noelle a lot,” Sandy said.

“They went home,” Delphie said. “I don’t have …”

She raised her arms as if in a hug. Her hands moved to her chest and out.

“Hmm,” Sandy said. “You feel like you don’t have enough mothering capacity to help a little girl who’s been hurt so much. That is tough.”

“And bad,” Delphie looked crushed. “Broken.”

Sandy hugged her.

“Not broken,” Sandy said. “Just different. We all have different gifts.”

Sandy smiled at Delphie.

“You taught me that,” Sandy said.

“But every woman should know how to … do … that,” Delphie said.

“Says who?” Sandy smiled. “I think it’s awesome that you know this about yourself. That’s what makes you great.”

Delphie scowled.

“First off,” Sandy said. “Not every woman knows how to be a mother. My friend Heather is a great mom, but she was an only child. She doesn’t have a lot of patience for …”

Sandy pointed upstairs where they could hear Nash and Noelle yell at each other.

“You handle that stuff with ease,” Sandy said. “We’re all different.”

“What do I do?” Delphie asked. “I was just like Ivy until … and Celia took me in, but I’m not Celia. I am not. Valerie could take Ivy. She said she would, but she’s leaving at the end of the week for her premiere and then a month in LA. Ivy would be gone like Jackie.”

Delphie let out a big sigh.

“I’m going to miss Jackie so much,” Delphie nodded.

Sandy smiled.

“Tell you what,” Sandy said. “I’ll talk to my friend Heather and see what she thinks. Maybe Ivy could live with them.”

Delphie nodded.

“I also think that Ivy had an aunt,” Sandy said. “She was in Afghanistan when her mother died. That’s why she didn’t take Ivy. I bet she’d want some time with Ivy.”

Delphie nodded.

“Would you like it if I found out what’s possible?” Sandy asked.

Delphie nodded.

“I’d be happy to,” Sandy said. “Now I’d better get upstairs before they kill each other.”

Delphie nodded. Sandy touched Delphie’s shoulder and left for her apartment. Lost in thought, Delphie stayed in her spot against the couch.

“Delphie?” Honey called from the kitchen. She rolled into the doorway to the living room. “Mike just called to say that Charlie’s bringing a family home. I was going to make a quick pot pie for the kids with the left over chicken from last night. Where did you put the puff pastry?”

“I think the boys made something with it.” Delphie smiled. This was something she could do.

“Crap,” Honey said.

“How ‘bout if I make the crust and you make the inside?” Delphie stood up.

“Deal,” Honey smiled.

Delphie put her arm over Honey’s shoulder and they went into the kitchen.


Wednesday evening — 6:00 p.m.

“Ready?” Sam asked.

Jacob nodded. Aden pushed open the door to the large conference room and followed the men inside. The tension in the room was thick.

The femal site managers took up the far end of the table while the black men sat closer to the front. The white men sat across from them and the Hispanic site managers stood in the back.

Once a cohesive group, the site managers now wouldn’t even look at each other.

“I’m going to cut to the chase,” Jacob said. “We’re pulling out of the site near the airport.”

As if lit on fire, the site managers erupted with rage.

“I told you so,” Rodney’s replacement site managers said at the top of their lungs.

The women had a loud conversation across the table with each other. The men along the back wall argued with each other in Spanish and the men along the side looked smug.

“Settle down,” Aden said.

The white men got up and turned their backs on the rest of the room. A woman got up and knocked one of the chairs over. The men at the back were yelling and Rodney’s replacements fell quiet, almost too quiet.

“Enough,” Sam said.

Everyone stopped moving.

“That is enough,” Sam said.

The site managers turned to look at him.

“Get your rear ends in a chair,” Sam pointed to the men in the back of the room. “Ladies - make some space for them. You - along this side. They don’t have cooties. Move over. And you men! Turn your chairs around.”

“But Sam!” started a man who’d turned his chair away.

“Stuff it,” Sam said. “Now means do it now.”

He pointed to the black men.

“Wipe those looks off your faces,” Sam said. “You’re scaring … Jake.”

Bambi chuckled. Her chuckle moved around the room until everyone was smiling. The men in the back filtered into chairs around the room.

“Now, mix yourselves up,” Sam said. “We are not the ‘Black Dudes’ vs. ‘Those Honkies’ vs. ‘The ladies’ vs. ‘Those Hispanics.’ …“

“Honkies?” Aden looked at Jake and he looked away to keep from laughing.

“Latinos,” one of the Latino women said.

“Yeah? Did you not know what I meant?” Sam asked.

She grinned at him.

“We are one company,” Sam said. “We have a big problem and everyone needs to put your differences aside and get to work fixing it.”

Every eye turned to Sam.

“Now, I think you know that Jake is friends with that singer Jeraine,” Sam said. “Celia and I’ve known Bumpy and his family for a long time.”

“He’s Rodney’s son-in-law,” DeShawn Jones, one of Rodney’s replacement site managers, said.

“That’s right,” Sam said. “Jake went to his house last night and saw this.”

Sam nodded to Aden.

“Go ahead,” Aden said.

Sam pushed the button and Jeraine’s map came up on the screen behind them.

“Notice anything?” Sam asked.

“That can’t possibly be right,” one of the women site managers stood up. “Nate and I went through those with Aden.”

“Felicia, can you show the rest of us what you see?” Sam asked.

She looked at Bambi and Bambi gave a ‘go ahead’ nod. She pointed to the cluster of fault lines running under the location of their big work site.

“Now you know,” Sam said. He let the information sink in. When their eyes turned to look at him, he said, “It’s up to us to determine what to do next.”

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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